Hip Hop and Spoken Word Therapy

Hip Hop and Spoken Word Therapy (HHWST) creates a culturally relevant space, both inside and outside of schools, for youth to use the lyric writing process as a means for self-expression and emotional development. I currently run inner city lyric writing workshops in which I teach the art of lyricism. Making note of the fact that vivid and meaningful music often stems from personal experience, students are encouraged to thoughtfully reflect on how they feel about a given experience. This is done for the purpose of converting those thoughts and feelings into music. Being an MC myself, I take time to help my students fine tune their lyrics to insure that they accurately reflect their thoughts and feelings. On the surface we work to become better MCs, but in reality our goal is to become more self-aware.

 

Below you can find a description of a song titled “What I Please” co-written by Jeff, a high school senior, and myself. This track is an example of HHSWT in practice.

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After meeting with Jeff, and listening to his verse, I was given a glimpse of his mental state. When looking at the following quotes, I identified two different parts of Jeff’s current worldview. The first verse is by Jeff (some of which is listed on the left), followed by my verse (The Counselors Response). On the right side of each rappers lyrics are conceptualizations. In short, I identified an issue and used my verse as an attempt to restructure that issue.

Lyrics                                                           Conceptualization

Jeff:
1) “Imma live it up, doin what I want, tryna maintain the
attitude of under 21 cause, you’re only as old as you feel
and I’m tryna be a kid for a few more years. So I feel great.
I rap, skate, and work hard as long as I’m in bed by 8.
Don’t let your youth pass, try to make it last cause,
life ain’t right when you grow up fast.”2) “Not a care in the world, doin’ what I please.
No bills, no fees, my life is a breeze.
Imma seize every moment, cause everything ends,
being careful and weary with every minute that I spend”.
In one way this writing demonstrates Jeff is happy, carefree, and thoroughly enjoys his life. But at the same time we can see some negative thoughts. It is clear that Jeff thinks once he passes the age of 21, life will no longer be enjoyable. The idea of bills and responsibility signify a lack of freedom, or inability to do what he pleases. This strong negative feeling about the future would be a cognitive distortion. I am in a unique position, given my age and involvements in hip hop as a profession, to restructure that thought. With the intent of providing him evidence that life can still be enjoyable, and one can still “do what they please” after the age of 21, I wrote a verse about my life… 
Lyrics
Counselor’s Response:

“23 it’s a balancing act, yeah I wore that cap and gown so where’s my salary at? I’ve been around but I’m back, catch me lounging in my slacks, taking flack for the fact I swear there’s beauty in rap. ‘Holy crap he’s a grad and he’s published at that. Poking holes in his dreams but he’s grappling back…’”and“Not a care in the world, doin what I please. GOT bills, GOTfees, my life is a breeze. Imma seize every moment, cause everything ends, being careful and weary with every minute that I spend”.
ConceptualizationI chose to validate his concerns by acknowledging that life past 21 requires balancing, and is hard work. But it was necessary that I explained how I was able to craft a career path based on my interests, allowing myself to still “pay bills” and enjoy life. 

My hope is that this song gave you a glimpse of the work I am doing. If you would like to investigate the opportunity of running workshops at your place of work, or have any questions, please feel free to contact me:

Ian.P.Levy@gmail.com

The electronic publication of Hip hop and spoken word therapy with urban youth can be found here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08893675.2012.736182

 

Summer Time Grind

On March 11, 2011 I released my first EP titled the “Hourglass EP” and am now in the process of a putting together a new project. This summer is dedicated towards working tediously on music, and it’s madd fun. Since recently reinvesting in my musical roots, you should expect to hear tons of trumpet in my music in the future. I’ll be posting all music related updates on here from now on, be sure to keep an eye out for new materiel.

 

 

 

Recently I had a dope performance on the upper east side alongside DJ Static. Plain and simple, Static is a beast. I’m honored to be able to work with him both in concert and in the studio. Please check his music out on http://www.reverbnation.com/djstatic222 and keep an eye out for his upcoming album! Static is the main reason I’m investing time in my trumpet again. After asking me to lay down some horn lines on some of his beats, I’ve discovered the importance of incorporating the trumpet as much as possible. Thanks Static, keep being ill homie.

 

 

 

In the process of exploring my voice musically, I’ve spent hours listening to, and studying, artists I’d consider masterful MCs. This music has absolutely influenced the new sounds that I’m experimenting with. It seemed relevant to post some this music so, I hope you dig it

 

 

 

 

Frank Ocean – Super Rich Kids (Ft. Earl Sweatshirt)

There’s no question that Frank Ocean’s voice is dope, but Earl Sweatshirt is incredible. This verse demonstrates lyricism at it’s finest. I can’t stop listening to it. Check it out below!


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Turnip The Beet – Asher Roth

Asher Roth is one of the dopest MC’s in the game right now and unfortunately isn’t well respected. His most recent project, “Pabts and Jazz” demonstrates jaw-dropping lyricism. This track, released separately, does the same. Peep it.


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The Hourglass EP

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I’m pleased to present my first official collection of songs tilted “The Hourglass EP”. Starting in the summer of 2011, Brett Parker and I began to dedicate tons of time and energy to a field of music which we had never explored in depth. This release is the first step in a lifelong journey in which I intend to explore the intrapersonal, educational and psychological uses of hip hop and spoken word poetry. I don’t know where this road is going to take me but I’m excited for the ride. I would like to extend a special thanks to Brett Parker for his amazing production work, Andrew Kim for his help creating the introduction track and recording string parts, and last but not least Alex Cohen for his continuous support and validation, constructive criticism, and album artwork. Without all of you none of this would be possible. Below I’ve posted my conceptualizations of each track, thanks for listening.

My Time Is Now
My Time is Now was written and recorded in the summer of 2011 after graduating from Queens College. I was in a situation that I’m sure many have experienced, or will soon experience, in which I felt I was leaving childhood behind. I was incredibly excited to start the next part of my life but at the same time terrified of failing. After hours worth of conversations and personal contemplation, My Time Is Now was written.

Old School
Old School is my life story. I grew up with two parents who were musicians and always tried to be like them. I attended a high school in which my father was my band teacher and, although I didn’t realize it at the time, was very much forced to pursue the path of a classical trumpet player even though it wasn’t for me. After transferring to my 3rdundergraduate college I changed majors to psychology and took a year off of music. Throughout this year I started listening to hip hop and found a certain artist named Macklemore who forever changed my life. His authenticity and rhyme schemes allowed me to realize it was ok to voice my intrapersonal experiences. It was at this point that I began writing hip hop. Through this expression I have found myself as a first year graduate student at Columbia University Teacher’s College dedicating my life to the vast uses of hip hop in individual and group counseling. I have never felt so passionately about anything in my life. Hopefully this song speaks to that.

Interlude
This poem is a collection of thoughts about how writing helps me stay present.

Stay True (Ft. Brett Parker)
Stay True is a love song with the intent of capturing the power and importance of loving yourself. I realized that the world I live in has conditioned me to run away from negative feelings because I perceived them as weaknesses. Throughout this writing process I’ve gone through many life experiences that speak to the opposite. The more I accepted my vulnerability and tried to love my imperfections, the more I was able to enjoy my life. It sounds simple, it is not, but it is true. Instead of clinging to old experiences that brought me joy, I found I needed to dive into my struggles in order to move onto the next moment and discover the beauty it entails.

Until I Run Out of Breath
Until I Run Out of Breath was originally written in 2010 during my senior year at Queens College. I was first started to listen to hip hop and was finding that In the modern day music, hip hop seemed to be more of a “popularity contest” than genuine reflections of who artists actually were. This track embodies my personal commitment to rhymes as a way of expressing myself.

This Time It Was Different
This Time It Was Different is my first attempt at writing a love song with the intent of NOT being cliché. I took some time really analyzing the “failures” I had made in regards to my love life and tried to translate that into a song. Ultimately I found that I was unwilling to be honest with myself or my current love interest because it would counter the “things a guy is supposed to do” to get a girl. This game, so to speak, was something that I have always had tons of trouble playing. I found that it limited both my, and the girls, authenticity and led to constantly fail. I tried to paint a picture of my struggles with the game as well as my commitment to being myself.

Time Magazine
Time Magazine is a poem dedicated to John. C. Pisacano, my grandfather. Last semester he passed away and during the time that my family and I spent together I was given his old watch. I was informed that he was a lifetime subscriber to Time Magazine and had received this watch as a gift. I was struck by the time period in which I received this watch because I was in the process of writing this EP. The Hourglass is fundamentally the same to me as Time Magazine was to my grandfather. We both had an obsession with capturing the moment, living it to the fullest, and not being afraid to let things go. I love and miss you Grandpa, thank you for being authentic. This one’s for you.